A LEADING Scottish expert on sustainability today warned that the alarming picture of a nation without electricity - depicted in this week’s Channel 4 drama “Blackout” - could be closer than we think.
And Dr Alan Owen, Director of the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Practice at Robert Gordon University, claimed that society was likely to fall apart in little over a decade due to a failure to address a looming resource crisis, rather than fall victim to a concerted cyber attack.
Dr Owen, who is planning to launch a new energy and sustainability course at RGU next year, said: “Sustainability is often confused with environmentalism and western nations frequently insist that concern for the environment is not economically viable.
“However, sustainable human livelihoods depend on the four legs of sustainability - economic, social, political and environmental.”
He continued: “The first three are human constructs but it’s the last one that actually keeps us alive. Destroying the environment because it is the only economically viable solution is like burning your house down around yourself whilst sitting on the sofa checking your bank balance to see how rich you are.”
Dr Owen said: “We have known for years that the Earth is approaching a crisis point in terms of the amount of resources we as a human race are consuming. Everybody is getting very excited about technology at the moment, thinking that someone is going to come along and invent some fantastic piece of equipment that allows us to continue to consume. It doesn’t work like that. The silver bullet approach is a mirage.”
And he warned: “I do not believe it is overstating it to say that our society will collapse somewhere in the next 10 to 15 years, simply because it will have over-stretched the earth’s resources. We cannot afford the population that we have. We behave as if we have a choice when we don’t.”
Humanity, he argued, had to find new ways of reducing consumption and waste.
Said Dr Owe: “We don’t reuse - we are used to helping ourselves to whatever resources we want across the world. We need to find a way of changing that in a society that has become too selfish and doesn’t really place any value on the future.”
The new MSc course in Energy and Sustainability will be open to students at the start of next year.
Dr Owen explained the course was being designed for people from a variety of backgrounds including architecture, social sciences, business or engineering to study sustainability beyond their core knowledge.
He said: “The course is designed as a black box so people can come in from one corner and leave from another with a new set of skills.
“For example, we would expect the course to produce a graduate who could work in Indonesia taking their existing social sciences degree and have a reasonable understanding about what’s going to be appropriate technology for a population of 200 people, what the environmental impact is going to be of such a scheme and the business implications.
“It is vital that we try and spread the word about the importance of sustainability and cutting our consumption patterns, otherwise we are going to face some very hard decisions in the near future.”